Every week is Diabetes Week at Quin. And with 3 senior staff leading the way to a diabetes breakthrough – while taking insulin – any diabetes-related “holiday” can be bittersweet. After 6 months of intense recruitment for our research programme, we discovered a group of people with diabetes we didn’t imagine we’d engage with. Beyond the super-engaged PWD*, active on social media that celebrate most things diabetes-related, and those who completely disagree with the idea of highlighting these days are important, we discovered a large group of people who have no clue Diabetes Week is even a thing.
Those are the people we’re talking with on a daily basis.
People living with diabetes are unique. Each individual has a story, experience and approach to managing their condition. It’s probably one of the most diverse groups healthcare professionals come across. Many of them don’t know about the big diabetes events, don’t know about peer support groups, see a healthcare professional once or twice a year, and don’t otherwise engage with the healthcare ecosystem unless they’re facing complications.
They don’t go to big events, don’t necessarily connect with diabetes charities, aren’t following #GBDoc on Twitter and don’t necessarily tell the people around them they have diabetes.
Essentially, for many is a condition they manage and is more embedded in their lives than the other way around.
They share feelings of disconnect with the healthcare ecosystem, gratitude towards the NHS – for giving them access to insulin – but also of injustice when they can’t access technologies that can make managing their condition easier.
One might wonder why a MedTech company – in the midst of R&D** – would produce ethnographic films that – admittedly pull at the heartstring but – have very little to do with the tech they’re building.
Being human-centric in Quin’s world means building the tech our users tell us they need and becoming an integral part of their lives.
To do that, we have to understand their fears, their desires, their hopes, their goals and their needs. That often means reading between the lines because they’re rarely asked what is important to them, let alone demanding of what they need.
We run weekly interviews and speak to our users pretty much every day. This somewhat intrusive approach means we get to hear about their victories and their disappointments. We think their perception of what the former and latter are is heavily dictated by the healthcare ecosystem.
And the relationship our users have with their healthcare professionals is central to how they engage with our app. Their mindset is often shaped by their experience with the healthcare system, and how much or how little they follow medical advice versus develop their own approach. We want to debunk old myths and offer an alternative perspective.
So instead of opportunistically trying to get more people on our app during Diabetes Week, we decided to give the experiences of PWD an airing and hopefully add value to the community we serve. In producing this film, we knew we also wanted to give diabetes healthcare professionals a voice.
GPs, commissioners***, endocrinologists, device manufacturers and MedTech companies are often criticised. They also deal with pressures often unknown to people living with diabetes.
PWD also rarely get the opportunity to have honest conversations with them. They are often unaware of what services are available, and have no clue how the diabetes services are distributed their areas beyond casually alluding to postcode lottery.
We also knew we wanted to get a child-like viewpoint. Nothing is more powerful than a child asking questions or offering answers about a condition he has to live with.
So we created the Heartfelt series. A series of in-depth conversations between healthcare professionals and a diverse group of PWD. You can discover their stories below.
We’re reaching for the stars. But in all honesty, the moon is where we want to land.
So making ethnographic films might not be what you would expect from a diabetes app. Putting people at the heart of technology and letting them lead the way, might be lip service for some, is our daily bread.
So yes, we will be where you may not think we belong. We will show you we care. We will highlight things we notice on our journey to creating the breakthroughs we think are needed in diabetes and we aim to do that with everyone on board.
If you think there are things we should look at and haven’t, we are all ears.
*PWD: People With Diabetes
**R&D: Research and Development
*** Commissioners: the people buying healthcare services in your area